Stretching, Bending (Lent Poems 39)

When I was a child, you said, I would dress
Myself, and then go where I wanted to go.
But when an old man, they would dress me in clothes
Of torment, stretch my arms out to take me
Where I’d not want to go,
And in the grains of the sand
That we walked on were nails,
Stabbing into my feet like the sharpest of words,
While the other disciple trailed behind us,
Feet pattering gently, protected and safe.
What, Lord, for him? I asked. How will he go?
A rebuke then like ice in your firm, furrowed brow,
A look of stern warning, a block in the path:
Do not go there. It’s not for you to know,
And the nails dug then sharper, deeper into
The feet of my soul, and I saw myself carried
By my arms and then nailed, as you, Lord,
Were nailed, and could not quite see
That the nails would be my badges of pride,
As you, now immortal, still carried your scars.
If I want him to stay alive until I
Return, you said, Peter, what is it to you?
And I caught in your words then a sound of such sternness
That all I could do was let my heart bow, contritely, to you,
And bend with your wisdom, as vast as the sea.

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